Getting Started – Abigail Thomas

Wise words from writer Abigail Thomas on how to become a writer.


When I was a little girl I kept a notebook of my favorite poems which included, of course, Joyce Kilmer’s Trees, and a short poem that goes: Little drops of water/little grains of sand/make the mighty ocean/and the pleasant land/ under which I had written reverently in flowery script, How true. I kept diaries too and they were filled almost entirely with what we had had for supper: “Tonight we had lambchops and baked potatoes it was so good” and then when I got older I wrote “Oh I love him so much” more times about more boys than I can bear to remember. These were not the diaries of a writer in the making. But ever since fourth grade when I’d written a story entitled ”I am a loaf of bread,” I longed to be a writer. Then I grew up.

Fiction? Impossible. How did anybody do it? Who was I? I thought a real writer was different, part of a club nobody had asked me to join, someone who knew a secret I didn’t know. A real writer had something to say, something important, and I didn’t know anything that mattered. Worse, I couldn’t make a story come together in my head. Where to start? How to finish? My problem was I was trying too hard and giving up too quickly. My problem was I thought you had to know what you were doing.

Nonsense. You just have to start.


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